Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales

Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, and Michael Drayton (1598)

Historical Records

Payments to Playwrights (Henslowe's Diary)

F. 45 (Greg, I.85)

Lent vnto drayton & cheattell the 13 of marche 1598
in parte payments of a boocke wher in is a parte of
a weallche man written wch they have promysed to delyuer
by the xx day next followinge J saye lent R money ............. } xxxxs

lent vnto the company to paye drayton & dyckers
& chetell ther full payment for the boocke called
the famos wares of henry the first & the prynce
of walles the some of ........................................ } iiili vs

Payments, Miscellaneous (Henslowe's Diary)

F. 45 (Greg, I.85)

lent at that tyme vnto the company for to spend
at the Readynge of that boocke at the sonne in
new fyshstreate ................................................. } vs

Theatrical Provenance

Having paid for the play in full in March 1598, the Admiral's company most likely mounted a production in late spring, following the collective reading by 25 March at the Sun on New Fish Street.

Probable Genre(s)

History (Harbage, Wiggins)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Wiggins offers Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, either in the 1577 or 1587 edition, as well as (possibly) other chronicle sources (#1114).

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Fleay did not comment on the possible narrative of the play but did suggest it might be the same as "Welchmans price," a play title listed in Henslowe's inventory of books belonging to the Admiral's men, 3 March 1598 (Greg, Papers, 121). Fleay seems to have renamed "Welchmans price" as "Welshman's Prize" (Fleay, BCED, 2.307; Fleay, BCED, I.122-23). Fleay reads Henslowe's naming of Dekker among the team of dramatists in the second (and full) payment for the play as evidence that Chettle and Drayton found "their work in arrear" and "applied to Dekker for help" (Fleay, BCED, I.12). Accounting for the payment of 5s over a total of 120s for the play, Fleay supposed that the company combined that extra with the 5s for the reading of the play at the Sun to pay for hiring the room and providing 'good cheer'; he further supposed that Henslowe's entry immediately following, which concerns a private performance at which their gear was lost, was a performance of "The Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales" (Greg, I.85; Fleay, BCED, I.122-23).

Greg assumed that Chettle, Dekker, and Drayton's play addressed the conflicts of Henry I with either Gruffydd ab Rhys, Prince of South Wales, or Gruffydd ab Cynan, Prince of North Wales (II.191-2, #130). He was inclined to follow Fleay's lead (and Fleay's title) in identifying it with "The Welshman's Prize" (Greg, II.191-92, #130).

Gurr combines the entries of "Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales" with the listing of "Welchmans price" in Henslowe's inventory of books in March 1598 (#90, p. 234; also, p. 1102). He reads the specification of "a weallche man" as "the growth of a liking for Welsh accents" (p. 234, n.79).

Wiggins disentangles Chettle, Dekker, and Drayton's play from "The Welshman's Prize" (he offers "The Welshman's Price" as an alternate title; #1115). Of "The Famous Wars of henry I and the prince of Wales," he observes that the reference to a Welshman in the payment on 13 Marche may be to the Prince of Wales specified in the second payment but "is just as likely" to be "a comic turn conceived for the company clown" (#1114).

For What It's Worth

Henslowe's mention in the payment of 13 March 1598 of a Welsh man (in a separate entry from the subsequent title, "Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales") precipitated a lumping of Chettle, Dekker, and Drayton's play with other titles in the diary. Malone footnoted the entry of "A Booke wherein is a Part of a Welshman" with the suggestion that the play meant was The Valiant Welshman (presumably Robert Armin's play, c. 1612, Q1615 (I, pt..2, p. 309). Collier rejected Malone's supposition, suggesting instead that Henslowe's entry on 29 November 1595 ("The Welshman") was more likely Armin's play (Collier, p. 120). Fleay ignored the entanglement of ("The Welshman") of 1595 with Henslowe's entry on 13 March 1598 (above) but introduced another identification, that being the Chettle-Dekker-Drayton play with "Welchmans price" in Henslowe's inventory of playbooks in March 1598. That is the lumping that scholars have perpetuated (as well as the change from "price" to "prize"), excepting Wiggins (#1114, #1115). Gurr specifically decouples "The Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales" from the 1595 ("The Welshman") (p. 234, n. 79), as does Wiggins (#882).

Works Cited

Collier, John Payne, ed. The Diary of Philip Henslowe. London: Printed for The Shakespeare Society. 1845. Collier
Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Malone, Edmond. The Plays and Poems of William Shakspeare. 10 vols. London: H. Baldwin, 1790..

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, affiliation; updated 27 May 2016.